Tag Archives: errors

The Article in English: Explanation, Exercises and a Challenging Quiz

Although the use of the article in English seems a priori an easy subject to teach, the truth is that some students struggle with the use and omission of it.

What can you find in this post?

  • Intermediate level:
  1. Animated video with some rules on the use and omission of the articles “the, a/an”
  2. Some links to exercises from around the web to consolidate knowledge.
  • Advanced Level:
  1. An engaging quiz with feedback notes featuring some difficult cases related to the use and omission of articles.

 

Grammar. Watch the presentation. Pause it as often as necessary to understand and assimilate the rules.

Exercises: Links to interactive exercises  from around the web to consolidate knowledge.

 


The quiz

 

Common Errors: Pay vs Pay For and Other Common Expressions

Oh my! We are enjoying the last week of summer and I don’t want to think about what’s ahead of us. I quite like autumn provided it doesn’t rain a lot, but I absolutely hate winter. Light for me is essential and where I live, surrounded by beautiful misty green mountains, we don’t get to see much light in winter. That’s the downside.
Anyway, I got the idea for this post just before my brain exploded after endless hours of correcting errors from essays.

Have a look at these two sentences. Take your time.
Which is correct? The first? The second? Or maybe both?
1. I paid the tickets with my credit card
2. I paid for the tickets with my credit card

At the end of this blog post, you’ll find a little quiz to test your knowledge, but now here’s the explanation:

The verb “to pay” can be both transitive and intransitive.

Intransitive

  1. You” pay FOR something” when saying exactly what you’ll receive in return for the money/payment. Therefore, sentence 2 above is correct. (I paid the tickets with my credit card) 
  • I paid for the tickets with my credit card
  • My son pays for his internet connection with his pocket money.
  • How much would you pay for that jacket?

Transitive

  1. You “pay something” when you don’t mention what is being purchased.
  • I paid 50€ to get a good seat
  • Everybody in Spain must pay taxes
  • I need to work if I want to pay the bills/the rent
  1. You “pay someone”.
  • I paid him 50€
  • He has always paid his employees
  • Can you pay the plumber for fixing the tap?

And now that we are on the subject 🙂  perhaps  you’re williing to go the extra mile and learn a few expressions with this common verb. Here we go. Just 6.

  • To pay in advance= to pay for something before it is received or delivered

                              I paid in advance for the first night in the hotel

  • To pay an arm and a leg/ to pay through the nose for something = you pay too much

                           Most Americans pay an arm and a leg to provide their families with a health plan

  • To pay the price= to suffer the consequences for doing something or risking something

                           Those who did not get off early paid the price and couldn’t get there on time

  • To pay as you go = to pay costs as they occur; to pay for goods as they are bought (rather than charging them)

                                  Get a pay as you go mobile

  • To pay (someone) peanuts= to pay someone the absolute minumum amount necessary.

                         Talking about money, we hear that in sweatshops workers are paid peanuts.

  • To pay attention to (someone/something)= to give attention to someone/something              As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
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And here’s the quiz, as promised.

Did you know… What’s the weather like? or How is the weather?

Officially it’s still spring, but here in the north of Spain it seems the summer has arrived. So, while some people are already kind of brown and wearing colourful garments, I am still hidden under layers of dark clothes looking like a stuffed sausage and crazy busy 🙂 checking exams.

Talking about the weather seems to be a favourite topic of conversation,but not only for British people. Every foreigner I’ve met, no matter the nationality, eventually talks about the weather.

Do you talk about the weather?  Isn’t it true that when talking to people you have just met to simply start a conversation and avoid the I-don’t-know-what-to-say embarrassing moment, we talk about the weather?

So, how do you ask about the weather? Choose the correct answer

  1. What’s the weather like?
  2. How’s the weather?
  3. Both

The correct answer is c.

There is not much difference between these two questions when talking about the weather. Either of these is used in every day English. Some people might argue that “What’s the weather like in Spain?” asks for a more detailed description of the usual  weather in Spain, whereas “How’s the weather in Spain?” would be more casual and  would get “Good/Bad/Rainy” as an answer .

The truth is that asking these two questions will almost always get you the same answer.

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Quiz: Fixing Most Common Mistakes Seen in Intermediate Written Exams

I must be doing something wrong. On second thought, perhaps my students are doing something wrong.

Do you know when your mum tells you off over and over again for not tidying your room and you just nod your head, promise it will never happen again and then, for some unknown reason, you seem unable to keep your promise? My students do it all the time. It’s called being nice. They are very nice, but being nice won’t help them pass exams.

So, you highlight the mistake, explain why it is a mistake, ask students if they have understood, they nod their head and  say they do, you elicit some examples and  give them exercises to consolidate and when you think you have seen the last of this mistake, here it is again, sticking its tongue out at you.

Below you’ll find a quiz with some of these very persistent mistakes students at intermediate level, and probably above, make.

This is how I suggest you do this quiz

  1. Do the quiz. Obviously 🙂
  2. Read the grammar and do the exercises when provided.
  3. For spelling mistakes: try to remember the words commonly misspelt featured in the quiz and write them down with the correct spelling.
  4. Grammar mistakes: Do you remember the mistakes? Can you remember why they were wrong? Write a sentence for each of the mistakes you can remember.
  5. Do the quiz again and correct your own sentences and the spelling of the words now.
  6. Were there any grammar or spelling mistakes you could not remember? Repeat numbers 3, 4 and 5.

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Quiz: Fixing Most Common Mistakes Seen in Intermediate Written Exams

Ready to start the quiz? Here we go! Which of these sentences is correct?

I am interested in participate in a seminar

I am interested in participating in a seminar

Which of these sentences is correct? Don’t forget to read the grammar and do the exercises

There are a lot of meals that they are easy to cook

There are a lot of meals that are easy to cook

There are a lot of meals they are easy to cook

Another very frequent mistake. Which is correct?

From my point of view is very difficult to be the boss.

From my point of view, it is very difficult to be the boss.

Let’s try spelling now! Which is correct?

possible

posible

accommodationaccomodation
helpfulhelpfull

Ready for the next grammar mistake? Which is correct?

I don’t mind sharing it with other family

I don’t mind sharing it with another family

Think hard! Which is correct? Choose and then read the grammar and do the exercises

I would like to know how much does it cost

I would like to know how much it costs

Let’s see vocabulary now. Which is correct?

My mother is a great cook

My mother is a great cooker

Concentrate! Which is correct?

I prefer stay in a hotel

I prefer to stay in a hotel

And now, what do you say?

I couldn’t find the information on your website

I couldn’t find the information in your website

Let’s go for spelling again. Which one is correct?

comfortable

confortable

definitelydefinetely

Which is correct?

business

bussines

What’s the plural of “life”

lifes

lives

Let’s focus on articles now. Which is correct?

I strongly believe that the fast food is not healthy

I strongly believe that fast food is not healthy

Which is correct?

The dates of the seminar are not enough clear

The dates of the seminar are not clear enough

What do you say?

I am completely agree wih you

I completely agree with you

Think hard! What do you say?

Fast food is becoming very popular

Fast food it is becoming very popular

What’s the opposite of the adjective “polite”?

Impolite

Unpolite

Which is correct?

Everybody loves you

Everybody love you

What’s the correct spelling?

greatful

grateful

And now?

successful

sucessful

Which is correct?

neccesary

necessary

What do you say? At or in?

They arrived in London yesterday

They arrived at London yesterday

Which is correct in this context? Don’t forget to read the grammar and do the exercises.

In the end we decided to cancel the trip

At the end we decided to cancel the trip

Which preposition collocates with “depend”?

It depends on her

It depends from her

It depends of her

What do you say? Choose the correct answer and then read the grammar and do the exercises

The mountains were covered with snow

The mountains were covered by snow

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You might be interested in doing these other quizzes

The Sore Thumb: A Subject-Verb Agreement Quiz

Yes, I am doing this. I am publishing this post. And I am publishing this post even when I am well aware that it is going to stir up controversy.

How does she dare, I can almost hear you say, create a quiz about subject-verb agreement when she is not even a native speaker?

I might regret it, but the truth is that I sort of needed to clarify in my mind one of the most obscure points of grammar in the English language- namely that of subject-verb agreement-,  because contrary to what one might think a singular subject in English does not always demand a singular verb, and what looks like a plural subject might not be so and take a singular verb instead. To top it all, when there is disagreement among grammarians, both singular and plural forms can be used.

To create this quiz, I have done a lot of research on the Internet and read what some noted grammarians have to say about this issue and  I have found that they don’t always agree. For this reason, I have tried to avoid the most controversial subject-verb agreement issues.

Hope you find it useful!

 

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A Word on Grammar: Infinitives or -ing Forms as Subjects of a Sentence?

Is it…

  • To learn English is important?   or
  • Learning English is important?

A long time ago, having an infinitive as subject of a sentence was just normal. So you could easily say:

  • To learn English is important  or To eat healthy food is good for you

However, in modern English having an infinitive as subject of a sentence is very unusual, especially in an informal style. Instead, we use:

  1. “it” as the subject and put the infinitive  clause later.
  • It is important to learn English
  • It is good for you to eat healthy food

2. -ing structure

  • Learning  is important
  • Eating healthy food is good for you

Hope you have found this post useful!!

Source: Practical English Usage  by Michael Swan

Activities for correcting writing in the language classroom

Here’s my latest contribution to the British Council magazine Voices: “Activities for correcting writing in the language classroom. The article encourages students to correct their own writing and it contains  6 error-correction activities which are a lot of fun.Who said learning English was boring?

You might also be interested in reading  Nine ways to revise English vocabulary using slips of paper” published in December where I suggest  nine activities for revising English vocabulary using simple slips of paper.

Thanks for reading!

The Spelling Challenge: are you up to it?

Is it definetely or definitely? Which is correct, possession or possesion?

Most students struggle with English spelling and no wonder, English spelling is difficult. Plain and simple. The best advice I can probably give you to improve your spelling is to read a lot and then if you keep misspelling a word, you might want to write it down  several times ( I’m sorry! I know it sounds like a very traditional thing to do, but it works and this is what is really important, isn’t it?). Doing spelling quizzes can also help, and it’s certainly more fun than writing the tricky word several times.

So, are you up to a little challenge? Then, try these three quizzes based on students’ common spelling mistakes found in Intermediate, Advanced and Proficiency exams. I have created them with the aim of helping my students get rid of these common spelling mistakes and I hope they are helpful to anybody visiting the blog!

 

This is how I suggest you work with the quizzes:

  • Start with the intermediate quiz even though you are an advanced or proficiency student. Life is full of surprises and it doesn’t hurt to double-check tricky words.
  • Once you have finished the quiz, try to remember which words were tested and write them down on a piece of paper. You don’t only need to be able to recognise them, but to remember its correct spelling.
  • Do the quiz once again and compare your written answers with the ones given in the quiz.

Good luck!

 

Easy? Good! Let’s take the advanced quiz now!

Piece of cake? Well done! Let’s try now the most difficult one!

I’d like to finish this post with an excellent piece of advice from Thomas Jefferson.

“Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelled, and, if you do not remember, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well.”

(Thomas Jefferson, American president  1800-1809, in a letter to his daughter Martha)

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A Word on Grammar: The Tricky “Want”

In case you haven’t figured it out by now , I am  kind of a  very-much-into-games teacher, but this doesn’t mean  that everything in my classes  is fun. I would be lying to you. I wouldn’t  dare say a large part, but  a significant part of my classes, is dedicated to teaching “boring” stuff, which might be dull, but necessary; and I think my students would agree here.

One of these boring, yet interesting, parts of the lesson today will be dedicated to fixing mistakes from their written assignments.

One of the most common mistakes students make and that can be easily fixed is with the verb “want”.

The verb “want” is probably one of the first verbs we learn in English and  the simple structure  “I want to go” or “she wants to buy” poses no problem. But as become more fluent in the language ,we risk trying more complex sentences and this is where “want” becomes tricky.

THE TRICKY “WANT”

Read the sentence below  and decide whether it’s right or wrong.

Do you want that I give you a lift home?

If you think it’s wrong, then you’re right 🙂 and you might want to stop reading this post now. Hey! I wouldn’t blame you!  But, if you  can’t see why the sentence above is incorrect, then dear reader, this post is right for you and here’s the explanation

  • “want” is not followed by a “that clause”. Instead we use an object+ infinitive structure. So,

  • Look at how we introduce the subject after the verb ” to want”:

  • Some other common verbs that can be followed by object+infinitve are: advise, allow, ask, encourage, forbid, intend, invite, need, persuade, recommend, teach,  warn, tell, cause…etc.
  • “Want” can also mean ” need” in informal English. We can say that a thing “wants” (meaning “needs”) something, in particular with reference to actions.In this case, “want” is followed by an -ing form.

                 ♥ Those windows need cleaning (= needs to be cleaned)

                 ♥ This floor needs sweeping (= needs to be swept)

You can also say :

                ♥ Those windows need to be cleaned

               ♥  This floor needs to be swept

Test your knowledge with this translation exercise (sentences in Spanish, sorry!)

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Confusing Words: Finally,In the End, Eventually, Lastly and At Last

Yes, I know, these connectors can be quite confusing; that’s why I have created this beautiful presentation to help you clarify them . I just hope the explanation doesn’t mix you up more. And it’s also, with this mind, the reason why a quiz follows the explanation. Beautifully presented as well. 🙂

To create these two interactive activities I have used Riddle.com, which helps you create interactive content in a few minutes.

Steps to create a Riddle
• Click on the Create Button
• Choose the type of Riddle you want to make. For this post , I have created a List and a Pop Quiz, but you can also create opinion polls and surveys.
• In a Riddle you can use images, animated gifts, articles, youtube videos…etc
• You can share on facebook and twitter or get an embed code for your blog
• The best feauture? It’s free!
I highly recommend Riddle to create beautiful interactive content for your classes.

CONFUSING WORDS: LASTLY, FINALLY, EVENTUALLY, IN THE END, AT LAST

Lastly and Finally

Use LASTLY or FINALLY to introduce the last point you want to make, the last action in a series of actions, or the last item in a list
  • Lastly, I would like to remind you that speaking Spanish is not allowed in this class.
  •  Load the paper, select the number of copies, and lastly press ‘Print’
  • You add flour, salt, and finally milk.

FINALLY and EVENTUALLY

 Use FINALLY  or EVENTUALLY to say that something happens after a long time
  • Finally we managed to get the car to start.
  • When she eventually turned up, the food was cold.

EVENTUALLY and IN THE END

Use EVENTUALLY or IN THE END  to say what the result or outcome of something was
  • They eventually got bored and went home.
  •  In the end we decided to cancel the trip.

AT LAST

Use AT LAST to say that something happens after a long period of waiting or trying, when you are glad about this
  •  It’s good to be home at last.
  •  At last, the pizza’s here!

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Ready for a small quiz?

Confusing Words: Finally,In the End, Eventually, Lastly and At Last

Read the sentences and decide which of the options best fits the gap.
Source: Longman Dictionary of Common Errors

Although she had been ​ill for a ​long ​time, it still came as a ​shock when she ___ ​died

Eventually

At last

__, I’d like to ​thank everyone for coming this ​evening

Eventually

Finally

Thank goodness! I’ve ​finished my ​essay ____!

at last

in the end

___ the baby stopped crying and we managed to get some sleep

Finally/eventually

lastly

Do you really mean that you’ve stopped smoking ___?

at last

finally

___ Spain won by two goals to one.

in the end

at last

___, as soon as you hear a beep, press the start button

Finally

eventually

It seems more and more likely that the human race will ___ destroy itself

eventually

lastly

She showed us the new dress, then the blouse and ___ the shoes

lastly

in the end

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You didn’t score as well as the experts but this means you can only get better! Practise makes perfect so just get stuck in and give it a go. You’ve got to be in it to win it!
[You can use this space to write some funny content to encourage people to share their result. You can also add in links like the one below or choose (in the Customise menu) to show a form that collects user information so you can build an email list etc.]

Viral content expert!

You know everything there is know about creating viral content! Well, almost. Great start – now it’s time to get creating fun viral content. Then you can sit back and watch people share it around the world.
[You can use this space to write some funny content to encourage people to share their result. You can also add in links like the one below or choose (in the Customise menu) to show a form that collects user information so you can build an email list etc.]

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